Doubtful and dangerous: The question of succession in late Elizabethan England, edited by Susan Doran and Paulina Kewes Book Review


Doubtful and dangerous examines the pivotal influence of the succession question on the politics, religion and culture of the post-Armada years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Although the earlier Elizabethan succession controversy has long commanded scholarly attention, the later period has suffered from relative obscurity. This book remedies the situation. Taking a thematic and interdisciplinary approach, individual essays demonstrate that key late Elizabethan texts – literary, political and polemical – cannot be understood without reference to the succession. The essays also reveal how the issue affected court politics, lay at the heart of religious disputes, stimulated constitutional innovation, and shaped foreign relations. By situating the topic within its historiographical and chronological contexts, the editors offer a novel account of the whole reign.

Interdisciplinary in scope and spanning the crucial transition from the Tudors to the Stuarts, the book will be indispensable to scholars and students of early modern British and Irish history, literature and religion.

Queen Elizabeth I’s reign was haunted by a single question, if she will not marry and produce an heir, who will rule England when she is gone? Elizabeth herself refused to name an heir and so the question remained and became even more pressing when she was gravely ill in 1562. Luckily she survived. Elizabeth actually had several choices for an heir. She could follow her father’s and her brother’s will and settle on the heirs of her aunt Mary (first the Grey family but later the descendants of Eleanor Brandon) or she could follow primogeniture and settle the succession on the heirs of her eldest aunt Margaret, who had been excluded by Henry VIII. Margaret, of course, had married the Scottish King James IV. Her senior descendant at the time of Elizabeth’s accession was her granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a Catholic.

Mary was forced to abdicate in her young son’s favour in 1567 and was forced to flee to England where she would spent the rest of her life imprisoned. Her son, now James VI, was raised a protestant. He seemed like the most logical choice, especially after his mother’s execution in 1587. Things weren’t that simple though and this book explores the question of his succession in several essays. I must admit I did not find it an easy read but it is very interesting and well written by all the different authors. It’s certainly worth your while.

This book is available now in both the UK and the US.

About Moniek Bloks 2733 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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